Lamborghini says it is previewing “the future of the company” with its Paris Motor Show concept car, called Sesto Elemento. The show car is named after the symbol for carbon in the periodic table – the sixth element – and has a power-to-weight ratio similar to that of a superbike. It has been created with help from aircraft industry giant Boeing.
The Sesto Elemento is constructed largely from a brand-new material referred to by Lamborghini as “forged carbon.” This dramatic-looking machine is a clear indication of what the next Gallardo might look like when it appears in two years' time, and what it will be made of.
At just 2,220lbs, the car is extraordinarily light, considering that it's also four-wheel drive and contains the potent running gear from the current Gallardo Superleggera. This gives it a power-to-weight ratio of 570hp per ton; by comparison, the rear-drive Ferrari 458 Italia has 370hp per ton.
As a result, the Sesto Elemento boasts the kind of performance that only superbike riders and Bugatti Veyron owners will be familiar with. Lamborghini quotes a 0-62mph time of just 2.5sec, with a top speed the same as that of the Superleggera.
The standing quarter-mile is rumored to be below the magic 10-second barrier, putting the car clear of even the mighty Veyron. Yet because the Sesto Elemento is a third of a ton lighter than the Superleggera, it's also more economical and cleaner.
“Every future Lamborghini will be touched by the spirit of the Sesto Elemento,” said Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann. This is a tacit admission that each new model from the supercar maker will make extensive use of forged carbon – although not, apparently, the next Murciélago replacement, because this car's development is already too far down the line to fully benefit from the new material.
Lamborghini has created forged carbon in conjunction with Boeing and the University of Washington. It costs roughly a third of the price of regular carbon fiber, but is the same weight and is almost as stiff. It's manufactured in-house by Lamborghini at a new purpose-built plant, and is made by first vacuum packing, then pressing a material similar to carbon beneath an 80-ton load.
The entire process takes less than 10 minutes and negates the need for baking at high temperatures for long periods of time – the method used to cure traditional resin-based carbon fiber. And because forged carbon costs so much less time and money to produce than regular carbon fiber, Lamborghini says it has been able to think “right outside the normal rules of car design” when it comes to the car's shape and structure.
The Sesto's tub is made from the new material, along with its doors, roof, hood, bumpers, major suspension components and virtually its entire interior, including the seats and dash.
“The structure of this car is at the center of its function,” says engineering chief Maurizio Reggiani. “It represents a revolutionary way of building a car. This method is a true breakthrough, and we are extremely excited about what it means for our future.”